Dear Bishop Kurtz,
Since our letter was printed in the ETC on January 26th, responses show clearly that the people of the diocese are ignorant of the facts. What started out for us as a crusade to have an admitted child molester's name removed from our parish building has become an eye-opening journey.
While seeking the support of the Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests, we researchedthe alleged abuse from first-hand sources, the victims themselves. We are far wiser today and definitely far sadder than we would have dreamed. While some of what the victims told us is still in the courts, there are facts which are in the public domain and which we can share.
It has been one year since the press conference when Bishop O'Connell admitted to "one instance of abuse, maybe two." Let us approach this from the viewpoint of what the laity of this diocese believe is true and what is the real truth.
Belief #1: "This indiscretion happened one time." The truth: The number of victims since Chris Dixon stepped forward is growing. They are telling of abuse by O'Connell that is far too serious to be called an "indiscretion."
Belief #2: "This happened 25 or 30 years ago." The truth: The abuse occurred over a period of 25 years while O'Connell was stationed at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary. It even occurred during the ten years while he was Bishop of Knoxville.
Belief #3: "Bishop O'Connell did not abuse a child. The so-called victim was a consenting adult." The truth: St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary was a "minor" seminary, i.e. high school boys between the ages of 13 to 18. The victims were usually between the ages of 13 and 16 although some were abused into their early adulthood.
Belief #4: "This was a momentary indiscretion, a youthful whatever, a result of overzealous counseling." The truth: This happened many times to a yet-to-be-determined number of young boys. The nature of the sexual abuse is too disturbing to relate in this venue and far more serious than we have been led to believe.
We urge that the victims be allowed to address this diocese and tell their story. Hiding from the truth will not heal us. We must forgive from a position of knowledge or the healing will not last the test of time. While we pray that we all continue on our journey from "sinners to saints," forgiveness after hearing the truth will bring true healing to us and to the victims; failure of full disclosure will make us all victims once again.